'Mouth To Mouth' falls under cultís spell

-- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:04 PM ET

If you need more proof that Ellen Page is going to be a superstar, take in Alison Murrayís debut feature film, Mouth To Mouth. Between TVís ReGenesis and next yearís X-Men 3, this film could be your last chance to see the superb Canadian actress in the sort of smallish vehicle youíll want to bring up one day at cocktail parties. Wonít you.

Mouth To Mouth is a well-made movie without quite enough story to it. In this tale of disaffected youth and the cult they join, Page stars as Sherry, a kid wandering around Europe on her own. In Berlin, a good-looking guy talks her into joining S.P.A.R.K. (Street People Armed with Radical Knowledge), a group of travellers who seem happy and capable of helping others, especially homeless or drug-addled kids.

Actually, most S.P.A.R.K. members are homeless and drug-addled kids themselves.

Sherry goes along with the group. Their travels take them eventually to Portugal, and she joins in for the grape harvest and slowly becomes a full-on member of S.P.A.R.K. The group leader (Eric Thal) is just the sort of psycho-babble spouting, hail-fellow, authority figure bound to be revealed as a bully, a coward and a sexual predator; he is, too.

Not too far into the narrative thereís a tragedy. The group is directed to flee before any authorities show up, a sure hint of worse events to come.

The S.P.A.R.K. road trip involves a drug-fueled music festival, where it turns out that Sherryís young mother (played by Natasha Wightman) is handing out ĎLostí posters and looking for her child. Their reunion is less than cheery, however, when mom also falls under the spell of S.P.A.R.K. and joins the group.

After several increasingly ugly episodes involving some form of brutality or another, Sherry at last appears capable of saving herself from her saviours at S.P.A.R.K.

Mouth To Mouth is said to have been inspired by writer/director/choreographer Alison Murrayís own experiences in a cult in the late í80s.

Maybe thatís why S.P.A.R.K. is the filmmakerís most enduring creation ó from the groupís little ďSpark it upĒ cheer to their desperate need to be loved, accepted and returned to a happier go at childhood, the cult itself becomes the most important character in the film. One doubts this is what Murray intended, but never mind.

Redemption notwithstanding, Mouth To Mouth is often tough to look at and populated by characters itís difficult to care about. Mind you, itís just the sort of intense, cautionary outing you might want to show to a teenager; too bad you have to be 19 or older (thereís a bar on the premises) to get into the Camera Theatre.

BOTTOM LINE

The cult becomes the most important character in this otherwise well-made Canadian film about a charismatic group leader and his followers. Catch star Ellen Page so you can say you knew her when.


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